Monday’s victory parade for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors could draw a crowd approaching two million people, an official with Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment says.
The parade will get underway at 10 a.m. at Exhibition Place’s Princes’ Gates and will then head east on Lakeshore Boulevard before turning north onto York Street and University Avenue and finally heading east on Queen Street to Nathan Phillips Square for a 12:30 p.m. rally.
Mike Bartlett, who is the Head of Community Affairs and Events with MLSE, told CP24 on Sunday that while it is “hard to say” exactly how many people will line the route, he could see anywhere between 1.5 and 2 million showing up.
He said that MLSE staff have sought out assistance from officials with the Toronto Santa Claus Parade as they frantically worked to plan the event over the last few days and are confident that they can execute the “biggest party Toronto has ever seen on Monday.”
“We got a few surprises up our sleeves but we are going to leave some of that for tomorrow,” he said. “I can guarantee you that each and every Toronto Raptor will be there as will our front office team.”
Players will be carried on double decker buses
Bartlett said that MLSE staff had some ideas in their “back pocket” but only really got to work on the parade plans after the Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
He said that the players will be carried along the route in open air double decker buses with the Larry O’Brien trophy also along for the ride.
Fans are being encouraged to line the route in Raptors gear as a show of support for the team, he said.
“This is Canada team, so whether it be red, whether it be black and gold, whether it be the old school purple, wear it proud and be part of our 24-year-run to become world champions,” Bartlett said,
Fans already camped out for rally
The parade is still a day away but a small group of fans are already camped out for the post-parade rally at Nathan Phillips Square, where members of the team are expected to address the masses.
About a half-dozen fans showed up at Nathan Phillips Square late Saturday night to reserve their spots.
“Seeing how crazy it was getting at Jurassic Park, we wanted to come and get a place in line right away and make sure we were up here at the front of the action and have a good view for everything,” one of the fans, Morteza Hashimi, told CP24. “We waited a long time in this city to witness something like this. I don’t think anyone is really prepared for it (the parade and rally) but we are hoping that it is everything we ever dreamed for.”
Hashimi and his friends began camping out at around midnight and are prepared to stay for the long haul, having brought a cooler full of food and water.
They aren’t the only ones going to great lengths to attend the parade, though.
Fans are, in fact, expected to travel to Toronto from across the province and even the country for the historic occasion.
“As soon as they won the title we started planning. We knew that we wanted to come here,” one Raptors fan from Ottawa told CP24 as he checked out the preparations in Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday morning. “I don’t know if I can describe the feeling. I have been watching the Raptors since I was a kid so all of that emotion will kind of burst (at the rally) I think. I will be so happy to see them and finally see the goal that we have been chasing for 24 years.”
Mayor John Tory has declared Monday “We The North” day in honour of the Raptors.
The following road closures will be in effect as of 9 a.m.:
- Bay Street between Dundas Street and Richmond Street West.
- Queen Street West between Yonge Street and University Avenue.
- Chestnut and Elizabeth Streets will be fully closed.
- Armoury Street will have restricted access
- Eastbound exit ramps from the Gardiner Expressway for Spadina and York-Bay-Yonge
City urging people to ditch cars, take transit
Because of the massive crowds expected to attend the parade downtown, city officials are urging anyone coming downtown Monday to use public transit.
“Don’t drive downtown tomorrow,” City spokesperson Brad Ross told CP24 in an interview Sunday. “If you’re coming down to celebrate, whether it’s at Nathan Phillips Square or to take in the parade anywhere along the route, leave the car at home. Take public transit – you’re guaranteed to get there instead of sitting in traffic.”
Ross said even those who are coming downtown for business other than the parade will have an easier time taking transit than driving.
“There’s going to be a lot of road closures, so even just being in the downtown core, if you’re coming down to do other business, leave the car at home or park at a TTC commuter lot and take the TTC downtown. That’s going to be your best bet.
In a statement, the TTC said that it would be adding more streetcars and subway trains to accommodate the expected crowds.
A number of TTC routes will also be on diversion as a result of the festivities:
- 5 Avenue Rd
- 6 Bay
- 29 Dufferin
- 121 Fort York-Esplanade
- 501 Queen, 504 King
- 509 Harbourfront
- 510 Spadina
- 511 Bathurst.
- The 510 Spadina will not be available at Union Station.
Go Transit said Sunday that all regular routes will be running Monday and Union Station will remain open.